Disaster Planning Requires Social Safety Net

Nate Berg says that planners have a crucial role in making sure cities are prepared for natural disasters.
July 5, 2012, 11am PDT | Emily Williams
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Hazard mitigation necessitates the consideration of the city's social capacity to sustain its citizens immediately following a disaster. Berg states that in order for a city to really be prepared for a disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake, you need to have a safety net of local social services such as emergency care and food and water supplies:

"A city with old buildings that has a strong network of neighbors and an efficient emergency services system will be at less risk of overall damage from an earthquake compared to a city with the same old buildings but none of the social networks or emergency services," writes Berg.

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain argue that cities must plan beyond the physical structure of the city and consider the basic needs of the population by assessing "the number of hospital beds nearby, the training level of hospital staff, the preponderance of marginalized neighborhoods, and rates of crime."

By preparing for events that occur after the disaster, planners can better serve cities and communities by helping them to recuperate. Just as architects build beams to support buildings, planners must organize a social support system to allow for people to carry on after a disaster.

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Published on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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